The New York Giants will start the final month of the 2019 NFL season by hosting the Green Bay Packers at home.
Both teams are coming off Week 12 losses, with the Giants sitting at 2-9 after 11 games, while the Packers are tied for the lead in the NFC North with an 8-3 record. The Packers are coming off of a bad 37-8 drubbing by the San Francisco 49ers, and are looking to bounce back.
“We just keep with the mindset good teams don’t lose two in a row,” Packers’ running back Aaron Jones said during a TV appearance Monday morning. “We haven’t done that all year, so we’re going to keep that mindset. We feel like we’re a pretty good team. Just go back to work.”
The Giants, meanwhile, are looking to put a stop to a seven-game losing streak as they head into the month of December. But if they’re going to do so, they will need to contend with Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and the rest of the Packers’ offense.
Stats at a glance
Keys to the game
Take advantage of injuries
The Packers got a bit of good news for their (hopeful) stretch run with the report that right tackle Brian Bulaga wouldn’t miss significant time with a knee injury suffered against the San Francisco 49ers.
But it seems likely that his sprained MCL will keep him out against the Giants.
That’s good news for New York considering the Giants’ pass rush win rate ranks 25th in the league, while the Packers’ have had the top pass block win rate in the NFL this year.
Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari remains one of the best left tackles in the NFL, and has the second highest win rate among left tackles. Rookie left guard Elgton Jenkins has the third-highest win rate among all guards, and center Corey Linsley has the top win rate at that position.
Bulaga’s injury will likely move swing tackle and primary backup Alex Light into the starting role. Light was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Richmond after the 2018 draft. Light is something of an unknown quantity at this point, and while we want to be fair to the young man, it’s also obvious that he is now the weak link on the Packers’ line. While he may be a good developmental talent, Light is not Bulaga. The veteran Bulaga is both skilled and experienced, and the Giants’ blitz schemes could create enough confusion for Light to be an exploitable weakness.
It’s one the Giants absolutely should try to take advantage of.
Contain Aaron Jones
Jones leads the Packers with 11 rushing touchdowns and is tied for second on the team with 3 receiving touchdowns. Those 14 combined touchdowns are second in the NFL to Christian McCaffrey.
It has been a long time since we have thought of the Packers as a “running” team, but right now Jones is the engine that drives their offense. It’s impressive considering he doesn’t get many touches per game. He’s averaging just 13.5 carries and 3.2 receptions per game, but needs just 19 yards to eclipse 1,000 from scrimmage.
His skillset, as a runner and receiver, is one against which the Giants could struggle to match up. Jabrill Peppers will likely miss the game with a fracture in his spine (transverse process), and that will impact how much speed the Giants have in the middle of the field. Giants fans should expect to see a healthy dose of Deone Buccanon at moneybacker to help compensate for Peppers’ absence.
The good news here is that the play of Julian Love in the absence of Peppers against the Bears could convince the Giants to finally take the leap and play the rookie at free safety. Doing so would allow Antoine Bethea and Michael Thomas to play in the box and closer to the line of scrimmage. Bethea played well for the Arizona Cardinals as a box safety, which helped to hide his diminishing athleticism.
Hopefully this will be a blessing in disguise for the Giants and prove to be the transition point for Love as their starting free safety, but figuring out ways to stop Jones should be their priority in the short term.
Keep the pressure on the Packers’ offense
Almost every week this year we’ve been warning that the Giants can’t give struggling units opportunities to ‘get healthy.’
The Packers don’t have the elite offense they once had, but they aren’t bad either and don’t need to “get healthy.” But after being suffocated by the San Francisco 49ers to the tune of 8 points, the Packers will be looking to bounce back in a big way.
Rodgers has only completed 59.6 percent of his passes these last two weeks, and he hasn’t had the year expected under new head coach Matt LaFleur. Likewise, number one wide receiver Davante Adams has not returned to form following the turf toe injury he suffered way back in Week 4. Adams has just 46 receptions for 580 yards and a touchdown — far off his pace from the last three seasons.
The Giants have done a remarkably good job of getting opposing offenses back on their feet. Even though they held the Bears to just 19 points, they were aided by some timely poor play by Chicago’s offense and Mitch Trubisky still had a season-best 278 yards passing.
The Giants need to, to the best of their ability, replicate the pressure which San Francisco put on Green Bay’s offense. It will be tricky — perhaps even impossible — considering the Giants don’t have Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, and Dee Ford to combine for 30 sacks on the season. We’ve seen all year that the Giants struggle to get pressure when they just rush four, and then struggle to cover when they blitz. There’s also the fact that Green Bay currently sports the league’s best pass block win rate, per ESPN.
While there is a definite talent disparity between the 49ers and the Giants, New York is going to have a rough go of things if they sit back and play coverage. Rodgers might not be the player he has been, but it seems likely that he will dissect the Giants’ secondary if they give him the time to do so. So while it might open them up to giving up big plays, the Giants should plan on bringing their entire blitz scheme to bear.